Credit cards in europe the peril of plastic
by Numees Mitchil on Aug 04, 2012
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Much of Europe has implemented a chip-and-PIN system, using credit cards that are embedded with a microchip and require a PIN code for transactions. If you’re bound for Europe, be warned: Your US ...
Much of Europe has implemented a chip-and-PIN system, using credit cards that are embedded with a microchip and require a PIN code for transactions. If you’re bound for Europe, be warned: Your US credit card won’t always work. Thanks to new technological advances, old-fashioned tax evasion, and merchants’ disgust with fees, your US credit card is not nearly as welcome as cash. Much of Europe has started implementing a chip-and-PIN system, using credit cards that are embedded with a microchip and require a Personal Identification Number (PIN code) for transactions. What this means for Americans is that your magnetic-stripe credit card won’t be accepted at some automated payment points, such as ticket machines at train and subway stations, luggage lockers, toll roads, parking garages, and self-serve gas pumps. For example, while driving in rural Switzerland on a weekend, you could discover that your card won’t work at the gas pumps in the few gas stations that are open on Sunday. In Paris, you’ll see bikes in racks all over town for anyone to use for quick trips, but the machines accept only chip-embedded cards, allowing Germans and Brits to cruise the cobblestones — but not Americans. The chip-and-PIN system is most commonly used in the British Isles, Scandinavia, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Most of Western Europe should be converted to chip-and-PIN cards in 2012 (and Canada will complete its conversion in 2015). So far, US banks have not committed to any conversion. Chip-and-PIN cardholders don’t sign a receipt when making a purchase — instead they enter a PIN (similar to using a debit card for a point-of-sale purchase in the US). Europe’s automated machines will sometimes take your US credit card if you know the card’s PIN number. Every card has one; ask your bank for the number before you leave on your trip. Don’t panic if your US card is rejected. There’s usually a solution. Just like at home, cash works. It’s easy to withdraw cash from a nearby ATM (there’s no problem using magnetic-strip debit cards in European ATMs), or simply carry sufficient cash with you (in your money belt for safekeeping). Freeway tollbooths and automated payment machines at parking garages often give you an option to pay cash. At train stations, you can stand in line at the ticket window and buy your ticket with euros, rather than try to charge it at a machine. If a gas station with self-serve pumps is staffed, a cashier may be able to take your credit card, swipe it, and have you sign the receipt the old-fashioned way. Live transactions are easier. For now, most hotels, restaurants, and shops that serve Americans will accept US cards. But change is coming. So far the new chip-and-PIN card processors can still read US cards, but eventually some of these countries could stop accepting magnetic-strip cards. Long before chip-and-PIN came on the scene, European merchants preferred payment in cash to plastic.
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